Area players ousted on opening day
nancy scholz/special to the times news Tamaqua's Nikki Mateyak hits a return shot during Thursday's District 11 Class AA Tennis Tournament
It might not have been the best of days for some of the local girls' tennis players at the District 11 Class AA Singles Tournament.
However, for Tamaqua's Nicki Mateyak, it was everything she could have asked for.
"It was just a great day overall," Mateyak said. "I'm happy to have been able to be here."
While the other TIMES NEWS area players failed to advance out of the opening round of play, the Raider senior was able to better her performance from a year ago.
After falling in three sets to Wilson's Jani Swiatek a year ago, Mateyak was able to advance to the second round this season with a 6-2, 6-1 straight-set victory over Emily Zanette of Pen Argyl on Thursday.
Twenty minutes after facing Zanette, the Raiders' No. 1 singles player was up against a familiar regular-season foe the tournament's No. 1 seeded player in Blue Mountain's Aubrey Abel. Mateyak had previously lost to Abel twice this season.
After taking a 2-1 lead in the first set, and then pushing it to 5-5 later on, Mateyak gave it her best with her high school career on the line. Unfortunately for Mateyak, Abel took the next two games to win the first set 7-5.
In the second set, Abel, who was on a mission after settling for a silver as a freshman a year ago, showed why she was the tourney's top seed. Abel captured the first five games before Mateyak was able to prevent the shutout by stealing a game. It was a short lived comeback, as Abel finished her off by winning the final game to seal the 7-5, 6-1 victory.
Still, Mateyak won't let the turn of events spoil her last stint in the annual singles' tournament.
"I'm ecstatic to even get the opportunity to have advanced today," Mateyak said. "In the second round to play Aubrey like I did, I played her twice before and lost 2-6, 2-6, and 1-6, 1-6. So to even win six games against her feels great.
"Everything was clicking. I did my best and I'm glad to have made it this far."
Tamaqua coach Jennel Yelito was glad Mateyak had the kind of day she had.
"I think Nicki played very well, especially being here for the last time," Yelito said. "She put everything she had into every point today. She wanted to stay on the court as long as possible.
"She gave the No. 1 seed a run for her money and she played very well in her first match of the day. We're really proud of her."
Two other Tamaqua players fell in the opening round. Sarah Zoba dropped a 6-1, 6-2 decision to Saucon Valley's Kayla Bohhorst and Vicky Krousse lost to Notre Dame of Green Pond's Emily Hammel.
Both of Jim Thorpe's players in the tournament also dropped their opening round matches.
Senior Kasey Herman fell to Ali Greenholt of Salisbury, 6-4, 3-6, 10-8 while junior Bryanna Kehrli lost to Bethlehem Catholic's Mara Blanchard, 6-1, 6-1.
Norb Lienhard was happy of his Olympians.
"First of all, it was great getting two players here," said Jim Thorpe coach Norb Lienhard. "I thought I was only going to get one. It was a bonus to get Bryana to play."
While Kehrli could earn another chance next season, it was the last chance Herman had to continue her high school singles career.
The Olympians' top player wasn't going to dwell on the setback, however.
"Even though I lost, it was a really good match," Herman said. "She was a really good player. I think we were equally matched all the way around as we both kept getting points and it was really close.
"I'm just going to take the experience of seeing how good the girls are to help me with doubles play next week. Bryanna and I are going to work really hard this week to be able to do our best for next week."